Monday, May 11, 2020   
Saunders Ramsey named Mississippi State's executive director of campus services
Mississippi State alumnus Saunders Ramsey is the new executive director of the MSU Campus Services. The position includes oversight of planning, design, and construction of all major capital projects; maintenance, repair, and custodial services for over 100 university buildings; maintenance of more than 1,500 acres of campus landscape; as well as maintenance, repairs, and construction of MSU's utilities distribution infrastructure. He joins MSU from Neel-Schaffer, where he led the engineering, planning and construction management firm's Starkville office. A Starkville native and former captain of the MSU baseball team, Ramsey earned a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from MSU in 2005. In 2009, he received his master's degree in civil engineering from the University of Memphis.
Mississippi State offers online classes to high school students
Mississippi State's Center for Continuing Education offers online courses to high school students to accelerate progress toward graduation, catch up with required classes, take courses not available at their school or simply enjoy a convenient learning option. Mississippi public, private and home school students can register at any time to begin earning Carnegie credits toward graduation requirements. Details are available at All courses are approved by the Mississippi Department of Education and developed and taught by licensed Mississippi teachers, according to an MSU news release. Students should consult with their high-school counselor or principal to ensure their school will accept the courses and complete a High School Online Course Request Form, according to the news release.
Meridian venues eager for the shows to go on
Meridian's entertainment venue directors are making adjustments and plans as restrictions mandated because of the COVID-19 pandemic begin to lessen. The Mississippi State University Riley Center has also had to readjust its Spring/Summer schedule and has set new dates in the summer and fall. "We are hoping for the best, but we are planning for the worst," Executive Director Dan Barnard said. Grammy Award winner Sara Evans will be the first performance on Aug. 22; followed by Lula Del Ray, Aug. 29; Steel Betty with special guest JEMS, Oct. 16; and Bruce Hornsby, Dec. 3. Tickets purchased for the original dates will be honored. Barnard adds that MSU Riley Center has a safety plan in place to provide social distancing when entering and exiting the theater.
Mask requirement lifted for Starkville businesses; curfew still in place
Customers and employees at Starkville businesses are strongly encouraged, but no longer required, to wear protective face coverings as the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic continues, the board of aldermen decided in a 4-2 vote at a special-call meeting Saturday. Gov. Tate Reeves' executive order on Friday allows gyms, barber shops and hair and nail salons to reopen with restrictions. They have been closed since April 3, when Reeves enacted a "shelter in place" order that ended April 27. Employees of gyms, "personal grooming facilities" such as salons and barber shops, and restaurants and bars providing in-house dining are still required to wear masks, per the executive order. The city previously required both employees and customers to wear masks as some businesses started to reopen in late April with Reeves' permission. The board then lifted the mask requirement for restaurant customers at its Tuesday meeting in response to Reeves allowing restaurants to provide limited in-house dining again.
Starkville Athletic Club sues city for required closing during pandemic
The managers of a Starkville gym are suing the city in federal court, claiming that being required to close during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic violated their constitutional rights. Starkville Athletic Club owner John Underwood and his son, manager and CEO Joe Underwood, filed the lawsuit Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi. They claim the closing is a "taking" of private property "for public use, without just compensation" and therefore violates the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The gym's loss of income since having to close further violates the Fifth Amendment, the complaint reads, because the city imposed a fine and imprisonment as consequences for violating Gov. Tate Reeves' executive order. The suit requests the city pay damages to Starkville Athletic Club for its income lost. Joe Underwood deferred a list of questions from The Dispatch to Tupelo-based attorney Jim Waide, who is representing the Underwoods in their suit.
'Limbo Land': Backlog in state's unemployment claims system delays funding for jobless
The wait on the unemployment phone line had entered the third hour as she remained on hold on a late-April afternoon. She had quit staring at the screen and resumed her daily chores. The automated on-hold message piping through the phone speaker became so familiar, she said, she could almost recite it. But she knew she had to stay on the line. She had dialed multiple numbers for the state's unemployment office -- 182 times in the previous three weeks -- all to reach a busy signal. Being placed on hold was the closest she had gotten to someone solving the problems that held up the unemployment claim she had filed three weeks ago. "I was just excited that I even got through to be able to be on hold," she said. The caller -- who returned to work in Columbus as a receptionist last week and wished to remain anonymous for job security concerns -- was among the many Mississippians who lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed lives and threatened livelihoods. In Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Clay and Noxubee counties, at least 8,100 residents have filed for unemployment benefits since the week ending March 21, the earliest when county-level data was available from the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.
Analysis: Gov. Tate Reeves tries to balance concerns of health, jobs
Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves is having to balance his libertarian-leaning instincts with public health concerns during the coronavirus pandemic. It's been his job the past several weeks to order some businesses to temporarily close and to restrict people's face-to-face interactions to try to slow the spread of the highly contagious virus. His statewide "shelter in place" order remains in effect until May 25. Reeves is gradually letting businesses reopen even as numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise. Restaurants could start serving food and drinks their dining rooms and patios Thursday, after more than a month of being limited to carry-out service or deliveries. Barbershops, beauty salons and gyms are allowed to start reopening Monday. They all must meet safety standards such as limiting customers and taking extra steps for sanitation.
Mississippi lawmakers deliberate bill on small-business relief funds
State lawmakers on Friday began outlining how to spend $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds and are hoping to pass a bill by early next week to provide small business grants. The Senate Appropriations Committee convened a hearing to discuss the COVID-19 Mississippi Business Assistance Act, which is currently slated to provide up to $100 million in grants for small businesses across the state. "Our thought is first to award funds to eligible businesses that were forced to close or voluntarily closed and have not received any federal assistance from any (Small Business Association) programs for COVID-19. Second, is award funds to other eligible businesses," Senate Finance Chairman Josh Harkins, R-Flowood, said. In order for a business to qualify for a grant, it must have been established in the state prior to March 1, be in good standing with the Secretary of State's office, have a controlling interest owned by one or more Mississippi residents and have no more than 50 employees, according to the current version of the bill.
Lawmakers begin crafting legislation to help Mississippi's small businesses
Legislators, trying to move quickly after a contentious showdown with Gov. Tate Reeves that affirmed their authority to appropriate $1.25 billion in stimulus funds, hope to have a bill passed next week to provide financial help to Mississippi's small businesses. House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, said there is a possibility that legislators could vote Tuesday on a small business financial relief package when they return to the Capitol. The House and Senate members met Friday to discuss where the stimulus money -- intended in part to help pay for coronavirus-related expenses -- should be spent. "The two areas we hear the most about are unemployment (benefits) and small business help," Gunn said. "Time is of the essence," said Senate Finance Chair Josh Harkins, R-Flowood. "We are trying to make these funds available as soon as possible." He said there are businesses that need help to remain viable.
Mississippi barbershops, salons and gyms can reopen Monday
Mississippi barbershops, salons and gyms and will be allowed to reopen Monday but must take steps to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, Gov. Tate Reeves said Friday. It was the Republican governor's latest announcement to gradually remove restrictions he has set because of the pandemic in the past several weeks. Mississippi lawmakers on Friday started talking about how the state should spend part of the $1.25 billion it is receiving in coronavirus relief money from the federal government. Senators debated putting at least $100 million into a fund to help businesses with 50 or fewer employees. Applications for aid would be handled by the Mississippi Development Authority, the state agency that promotes job creation. "Our intent is to give businesses that were impacted and have not received any federal assistance the first go," said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Josh Harkins, a Republican from Brandon.
As state hits another record of coronavirus cases, Gov. Tate Reeves reopens salons and gyms
As Mississippi saw yet another daily record in confirmed new COVID-19 cases, Gov. Tate Reeves announced on Friday that gyms and salons can reopen, meaning no business in the state is subject to mandatory statewide closures. Reeves on Friday announced he was extending the statewide "Safer at Home" order until May 25. He also announced a new executive order which will allow hair salons, barbershops and gyms to open on May 11 at 8 a.m. under strict guidelines. Earlier this week Reeves announced restaurants could begin serving in-house meals under strict guidelines. "I know that these reactions to reopen certain industries will draw harsh criticism. I'm not worried about that," Reeves said. "I cannot ask Mississippians to burn down their life's work and put their family at risk of starvation because I'm afraid of some national media or because I'm afraid of my reputation." The move to reopen the businesses comes as Mississippi health officials announced 404 new confirmed cases, the highest number of new daily cases to date, and 13 new deaths.
AP reporter and editor Ron Harrist dies in Mississippi
Ron Harrist, who covered Elvis Presley, black separatists, white supremacists and college football legends during his 41 years as a reporter and editor in Mississippi for The Associated Press, died of complications from leukemia at his home in Brandon early Saturday, his son Andy Harrist said. He was 77. "Ron was absolutely one of the nicest, funniest, most generous people I have ever worked with. He was also a wise and gifted journalist who covered convulsive change and epic stories that have shaped the South as we now know it," said Brian Carovillano, vice president and managing editor for The Associated Press. "He knew every public official in every office in every town and county, and they would talk with him because he had earned their trust for fairness and accuracy," said Charlie Mitchell, longtime editor of The Vicksburg Post and later assistant dean of the journalism school at the University of Mississippi.
USDA moves forward with food buys to aid farmers, food banks
The Agriculture Department on Friday awarded $1.2 billion in contracts for a new commodity purchase program designed to aid produce, dairy and meat industries grappling with COVID-19 bottlenecks in the U.S. food supply chain. The awards account for 40 percent of a $3 billion food purchase plan that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced April 17. The Agricultural Marketing Service said the program will spend $461 million to make fresh fruit and vegetable boxes, $317 million for dairy boxes, $258 million for meat boxes and $175 million for combination boxes of fresh produce, dairy or meat products. "These food purchases will help the hungry while providing income to farmers and ranchers who have seen some markets for their food disappear during the COVID-19 pandemic," American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said in a statement. The program will draw on a network of private distributors to get the food to participating nonprofit groups. By opening the program to the companies, the Agriculture Department also is aiding a part of the food supply chain affected by COVID-19 restrictions that closed restaurants, school cafeterias and college food service operations. Farmers and the food service industry took a financial hit.
Patagonia, L.L. Bean, North Face call for relief to 'get Americans outside'
Outdoor industry companies including Patagonia, L.L. Bean, and North Face called on Congress to invest in recreation infrastructure to help with the industry's recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Over 60 companies, led by the Outdoor Industry Association, wrote a letter to congressional leadership on Monday urging them to pass the Great American Outdoors Act, which would provide permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and for the maintenance backlog of federal public lands. "Our system of parks and public lands being open for public use is critical for small and large retailers and outdoor businesses, along with the supply chain that serves them. Plus, these natural places bring quality of life to communities across the nation. Every part of this system has been interrupted by COVID-19, impacting the health and wellness of individuals, companies, and communities," the groups wrote. The letter also calls for Congress to prioritize transportation funding, infrastructure policies that reduce carbon emission, and funding to the Civilian Conservation Corps to address rising unemployment by having people work on public lands, among other issues.
Lamar Alexander warns 'not enough money' to help everyone
Congress won't be able to appropriate enough money to help all those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, Sen. Lamar Alexander warned on Sunday. "There's not enough money to help everybody hurt when you shut down the government," the Tennessee Republican said on NBC's "Meet the Press." The solution to reopening the economy is to "test, trace isolate, treatments and vaccines," said Alexander, who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. "We have to let people go back to work and earn a living. "And I don't see us being able to appropriate much more money to help provide a counter to that," he added. The U.S. needs a "breakthrough," the senator said, citing the development of a vaccine to fight the virus.
Jerry Stiller, comedian and 'Seinfeld' actor, dies at 92
Jerry Stiller, who for decades teamed with wife Anne Meara in a beloved comedy duo and then reached new heights in his senior years as the high-strung Frank Costanza on the classic sitcom "Seinfeld" and the basement-dwelling father-in-law on "The King of Queens," died at 92, his son Ben Stiller announced Monday. "I'm sad to say that my father, Jerry Stiller, passed away from natural causes," his son said in a tweet. Stiller, although a supporting player on "Seinfeld," created some of the Emmy-winning show's most enduring moments: co-creator and model for the "bro," a brassiere for men; a Korean War cook who inflicted food poisoning on his entire unit; an ever-simmering salesman controlling his explosive temper with the shouted mantra, "Serenity now!" Stiller earned an 1997 Emmy nomination for his indelible "Seinfeld" performance. In a 2005 Esquire interview, Stiller recalled that he was out of work and not the first choice for the role of Frank Costanza, father to Jason Alexander's neurotic George. "My manager had retired," he said. "I was close to 70 years old, and had nowhere to go." He was initially told to play the role as a milquetoast husband with an overbearing wife, Estelle, played by Estelle Harris. But the character wasn't working -- until Stiller suggested his reincarnation as an over-the-top crank who matched his wife scream for scream.
How coronavirus attacks the human body
Today, there is widespread recognition the novel coronavirus is far more unpredictable than a simple respiratory virus. Often it attacks the lungs, but it can also strike anywhere from the brain to the toes. Many doctors are focused on treating the inflammatory reactions it triggers and its capacity to cause blood clots, even as they struggle to help patients breathe. "We don't know why there are so many disease presentations," said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "Bottom line, this is just so new that there's a lot we don't know." More than four months of clinical experience across Asia, Europe and North America has shown the pathogen does much more than invade the lungs. Trying to define a pathogen in the midst of an ever-spreading epidemic is fraught with difficulties. Experts say it will be years until it is understood how the disease damages organs and how medications, genetics, diets, lifestyles and distancing impact its course.
CARES Act funds now available to The W students
Mississippi University for Women students who have experienced financial hardships directly related to the disruption in university operations as a result of the coronavirus pandemic can now apply for CARES Act Emergency Stabilization funds. "After much study of the available guidance on the proper use of the CARES Act funds, we are now ready to accept applications and provide funds to eligible students. I encourage our students to review the qualifications for eligibility, to file a FAFSA if they have not already completed one, and to apply for the CARES grant," said MUW President Nora Miller. The United States Congress approved the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act March 27 and President Donald Trump signed it into law to provide funding for institutions of higher education to provide emergency financial aid grants to students whose lives have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The W received $1,094,031 in CARES Act funding designated for Emergency Financial Aid Grants for students.
USM Career Services director discusses job hunt challenges for grads
Recent college graduates are having difficulties finding jobs because of COVID-19. Rusty Anderson is the Director of Career Services for the University of Southern Mississippi. He says it's a tough time right now for graduates. Many companies are on a hiring freeze or pushing back interviews. "We have about a third less jobs we had prior to the pandemic on Handshake, which is our job posting system," Anderson said. "Obviously, the local jobs are the ones who have taken the biggest hit, the restaurant jobs, the service sector, because all of those places have closed. Students have not been able to work." Anderson says they shouldn't worry too much about the job hunt because there are plenty of jobs out there for college graduates. "I believe they are a little bit hesitant to start the job market right now because they are watching the news media, which is talking about the economic crisis that we're in," Anderson said. "In reality, we're seeing plenty of jobs. I am getting plenty of jobs posted. I have companies reaching out to me directly."
Alcorn State University donates items to Vicksburg shelter
Alcorn State University's Office of Student Engagement shared its resources with a shelter in Vicksburg to help those in need due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The office donated non-perishable food items to the River City Rescue Mission Friday, April 24. The items were initially donated to Alcorn's Brave Market, which was formed by outgoing Miss Alcorn State University Jakhia Gray to help students in need of food or personal items.
Former Texas mayor named president at Rust College in Holly Springs
A historically black college in northern Mississippi is naming the former mayor of San Antonio as its next president. Trustees of Rust College in Holly Springs on Friday announced Ivy Taylor as the 12th president of the 800-student school, which is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Taylor will succeed David Beckley, who has been Rust's president for 27 years. The Texan will be the first female president of Rust, chosen after an eight month search. Taylor served as mayor of San Antonio for three years and as a member of the San Antonio City Council for five years. She spent six years as a lecturer in public administration at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Taylor holds a bachelor's degree from Yale University and a master's degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She recently completed a doctorate in education at the University of Pennsylvania with a dissertation focusing on leadership at historically black colleges and universities.
Eastern Kentucky University to offer OSHA courses at Communiversity
A variety of Occupational Safety and Health Administration training courses will soon be offered at East Mississippi Community College's Communiversity, which will serve as a Host Training Organization for Eastern Kentucky University's OSHA Training Institute Education Center in Richmond, Kentucky. Tentative plans are to begin offering the courses at the Communiversity in July. "This is a service that will benefit not only our local businesses and industries, but our state and region as well," EMCC Communiversity Executive Director Courtney Taylor said. "This agreement will expand our current offerings and make it much more convenient for many in our area and beyond who are in need of OSHA training." The OSHA Training Institute Education Center at Eastern Kentucky University is one of 26 centers comprising a national network of nonprofit organizations authorized by OSHA to deliver occupational safety and health training to public and private sector workers, supervisors, and employers.
'A year of missed milestones': School districts get creative with coronavirus graduation plans
For Mississippi's high school Class of 2020, dreams of senior prom and walking the stage have been cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. Seniors across the state felt sad and angered when they learned their final year would come to an abrupt end, they said. However, superintendents and principals say they are working aggressively to fulfill those dreams, giving seniors "as close as an experience" to a graduation ceremony as possible. The Mississippi Department of Education has not issued guidance on how to conduct those ceremonies, so graduation plans are being worked out at the local level. Mississippi Today reached out to a number of districts that expressed uncertainty about ceremony plans pending school board approval. These plans include in-person (with social distancing measures), drive-through, and filmed graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2020.
AP Tests Begin Online And At Home -- But Not For Everyone
Starting Monday, Advanced Placement exams, which test high schoolers' knowledge of college material, will take an unusual form. The high-anxiety, college credit tests normally last three hours and are taken in person. But this year, in response to disruptions from the coronavirus outbreak, the College Board, which administers AP exams, shortened the tests to 45 minutes and moved them online. The new format has raised questions about fairness. For many students, changing the test site from a proctored classroom to their devices at home is a big deal. In a statement, College Board spokesperson Jerome White said the organization decided to move forward with AP testing to give motivated students the opportunity to earn college credit. But lots of teachers are still concerned about equity.
Auburn University profs satisfied with spring semester, all things considered
Auburn University appears on course to reopen sometime in July or August, judging by the signals from Samford Hall, but what that will mean for students, faculty and staff member is still very much up in the air. Faculty members sound keen to get back to the campus experience; however, some admitted this week to the Opelika-Auburn News that older colleagues are worried about coronavirus exposure when or if students and football fans flood back to campus this fall. "I think those questions are fair," admitted Auburn University President Jay Gogue. Gogue said he's looking at various plans to address the issue, and he and his team meet weekly with staff and faculty in the form of a 50-person committee that is deliberating the whos, whats, whens, wheres, whys and hows of reopening the campus safely. Older faculty and staff members are very much on the minds of the committee members, Gogue said. One possibility could be to limit their exposure to campus.
Facing a 'great unknown,' Louisiana universities ask state committee to prevent more budget cuts
The system presidents of Louisiana's public colleges and universities presented their case to the House Appropriations Committee on Friday that future cuts on higher education in the state's upcoming budget would produce further damage in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Louisiana's institutions are facing a "great unknown," the presidents said, a fiscal year that could see substantial revenue losses due to diminished enrollment, ongoing COVID-19-related expenses and potentially altered athletic activities. The much-needed federal aid Louisiana's four public university systems received from the CARES Act -- about $113 million total in institutional related funds -- is still not enough to cover the anticipated losses the schools will accrue in the upcoming year, the presidents said, and the systems cannot afford additional cuts from their annual state appropriations. "We're all here today to urge you that as you work through these important budgetary decisions," interim LSU System President Tom Galligan said. "It's vital that you make higher education a top priority to ensure our continue excellence."
How Bob Caslen has turned around his reputation at U. of South Carolina: 'He's done a lot to make amends'
Bob Caslen's first year as president at the University of South Carolina is ending much differently than how it started. The retired West Point superintendent's problematic hiring did not win him a honeymoon period. The former three-star Army general had to overcome skeptics who questioned why the school's board, backed by the governor, pushed to bring in a president with limited higher education credentials. The search led to an investigation and reprimand from accreditors for the governor's lobbying of trustees. "He came to campus under a cloud," USC board chairman John von Lehe said. Caslen battled perceptions that as a military commander he was going to make decisions without input. Some early missteps did not help, such as suggestions that the football coach Will Muschamp's job was in trouble with a losing season that seemed counter to messaging from the athletic department. Yet by most accounts, Caslen has turned around his reputation at South Carolina's largest college. He's done it by meeting with his critics, collaborating with staff and faculty, and making well-received hires, campus leaders say.
UK Hospital sees drop in COVID-19 patients, but faces $131 million budget shortfall
The University of Kentucky HealthCare system did not get the surge in COVID-19 patients it expected but revenues plunged, creating a significant budget shortfall, a hospital leader said Tuesday. Dr. Mark Newman, the executive vice president of health affairs, said that there has been "an absolute flattening of the curve" in UK's coronavirus patient numbers that are unlikely to top 50. The university has to withstand big revenue losses resulting in a possible $131 million shortfall in the hospital's $558.7 million spending plan for the current fiscal year and next, he said. The hospital's shortfall is separate from the university's projected $73 million budget shortfall. In March, the hospital system's revenues were down by about $15 million, and over the following three months, hospital officials project a $160 million loss if the system does not adjust, Newman said during the university's Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday. Some of the approximately 1,500 hospital workers who were recently furloughed have been able to return to work already as hospital volumes have started to increase in recent days, UK spokesperson Jay Blanton said. He said he did not have exact figures.
Virtual events salute record number of Aggies earning degrees this spring
Class ring deliveries, video conference celebrations and small family gatherings replaced the time students had originally planned to spend walking the stage this week. Texas A&M University postponed graduation due to COVID-19, but Thursday and Friday were packed with digital festivities -- from the university and some of its colleges -- to celebrate the record 10,796 students who earned their degrees this spring. Jack Bednarz, who majored in meteorology, recently bought a cap and gown when he found out the College of Geosciences was hosting a celebration via Zoom. The Thursday meeting was a chance to gather virtually as a college, then break off into smaller video calls to be with graduates from his major. Sydni Borders, who earned an animal science degree, said she is pleased with how university leaders have responded to COVID-19, but that it was devastating when classes and special events such as Ring Day and graduation were canceled. She said the fact that her professors were easy to reach despite the unprecedented circumstances made getting through the semester more manageable.
Furloughs required for 579 U. of Missouri staff members in budget crisis
Almost 580 University of Missouri staff members have taken furloughs or are scheduled to take them before July 31, according to a new campus website showing budgetary actions. The number jumped from zero last week because it is first week in which an overall accounting of layoffs and furloughs is being posted on the website. Updates will be posted each Friday and reflect information through the end of the previous Wednesday. No layoffs were reported this week. However, last week 32 people in MU Health Care were laid off, bringing the number of MU employees out of jobs so far to 49, according to MU. The length of the 579 furloughs varies from person to person, MU spokesperson Christian Basi confirmed. According to the website, 569 people have taken pay cuts through July 31, most of them 10% cuts. This week's update also announced restructuring of administrative support in the offices of the University of Missouri System president and MU chancellor. Restructuring includes layoffs, reassignments and changing duties for certain staff. The actions are part of "an effort to reduce duplicity, minimize costs and increase efficiencies."
U. of Missouri lab plans COVID-19 research
For 10 years, a 10,000-square-foot building off the East Campus loop has been a location where researchers in full-body protective garb have studied infectious diseases, seeking treatments and vaccines. That has now expanded to studying the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. The University of Missouri Laboratory for Infectious Disease Research opened in 2010, with two-thirds of its funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and one-third from the university. It's designated as a Regional Biocontainment Laboratory. It's a Biosafety Level 3 lab, with labs categorized 1-4 -- level 4 labs contain the most dangerous pathogens. Jeffrey Adamovicz, the lab's director, said it's early in the process of coronavirus research. "There are several projects," he said. "Most are in the planning stages. These projects run the gamut from disinfectants to using animal models and just some basic research questions like why younger people are more resistant."
'Start where you are': U. of Memphis awards 2,500 degrees in virtual ceremony
Around 1:30 in the afternoon, Antonio Scott became an official graduate of the University of Memphis. Scott spoke just after President M. David Rudd at the start of the virtual ceremony at 10:00 that morning. The outgoing student body president left his fellow graduates with a prescient sentiment from Arthur Ashe: "Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." Rare is the college experience without curveballs. Over the course of his studies at U of M, Scott rerouted his major, realizing after working as a student assistant in Rudd's office that instead of a career in broadcast journalism, he'd one day like to be the one distributing diplomas as the president of a university. The less expected curveball was wrapping up with courses online, and then sitting at home on graduation day, watching himself on a YouTube broadcast praise the other record 2,500 graduates for their resilience during and through a global pandemic.
Still reeling from the last recession's state cuts, colleges want no repeat
During the last recession more than a decade ago, states slashed about $33 billion in funding for the nation's colleges and universities from 2008 to 2012. The cuts were so bad that even though states have been gradually spending more on higher education since then, a recent study found colleges have gotten back only about two-thirds of the state funding per student they lost. So as House Democrats work on another massive coronavirus relief package, and states are again being forced to slash their budgets, a major emphasis for lobbyists representing colleges is to try to prevent a repeat of the devastating state cuts of the last recession. Though it faces opposition in the Republican Senate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said a major priority for the Democrats' proposal, expected next week, is to give states billions in federal aid as they reel from the financial hit caused by the pandemic. Her home state, California, announced Thursday it has a $54.3 billion budget deficit, which is the equivalent of a little more than a third of its entire budget.
With limited funds, colleges are rushing to get emergency aid into students' hands
The coronavirus pandemic has shed light on existing disparities in student wealth and security. Campus shutdowns sparked conversations about students' housing security. As unemployment skyrockets, the number of food-insecure students grows. Online learning revealed that many students don't have access to computers and reliable internet. Colleges are scrambling to meet the needs of their students remotely, and to do it fast. But distributing aid dollars can be harder than it seems. "The fact is, to give somebody emergency aid is actually pretty difficult," said Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of higher education and sociology at Temple University in Philadelphia and founding director of the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice, a research and advocacy organization that focuses on students' basic needs. In the weeks following campus closures, an avalanche of student aid fund announcements piled up. Seemingly every college wanted to get something to their students -- a laptop, Wi-Fi, money for food and housing. That's great, Goldrick-Rab said, but the success of such programs hinges on their ability to reach all students, process requests and administer aid quickly.
M.B.A. Programs Across the Globe Anticipate Drop in Fall Enrollment
Business schools in the U.S. and abroad are bracing for a decline in enrollment for the rest of 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic upends higher education and threatens already-fragile graduate programs. In past years, an economic downturn typically results in an uptick in prospective students going to business school because they are eager to get a leg up in a tough job market. But the current threat of Covid-19, which has cleared out college campuses and forced many schools to complete spring semesters online, coupled with a recession is shaping up to be different. Nearly half of business schools now say they expect enrollment to slide for academic terms that start within the next six months, according to a survey released Thursday by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the business-school accrediting firm. For some universities, uncertainties regarding enrollment may be all the more reason to take a harder look at the programs their business school offers. The University of Missouri's Trulaske College of Business said last month that it is temporarily pausing its M.B.A. program and wouldn't have an incoming fall 2020 or spring 2021 class. Christopher Robert, an associate dean of the school, said the move wasn't directly caused by the coronavirus, but said some of the ambiguities about whether some students will be able to show up on campus in the fall made it well-timed.
Another casualty of the coronavirus: scientific research
Ecologists have been unable to gather water samples vital to understanding the impact of climate change on state forests. Marine biologists who regularly collect data about conditions in the Gulf of Maine have been stuck on land, while others who do aerial surveys critical to monitoring endangered whales have been grounded. With much of the world still shut down, the coronavirus has hampered the painstaking work of many scientists whose findings rely on regularly collected data and seasonal experiments. The loss of that work -- much of which can't be replicated or done at another time -- could have a long-lasting impact on scientists' understanding of everything from the warming of our oceans to the demise of certain species. "Long-term environmental data sets have never been impacted to the extent we're experiencing now," said Doug Levey, director of the division of environmental biology at the National Science Foundation, which subsidizes nearly a quarter of all basic research at US universities.
Online proctoring is surging during COVID-19
Online proctoring has surged during the coronavirus pandemic, and so too have concerns about the practice, in which students take exams under the watchful eyes (human or automated) of third-party programs. Chief among faculty and student concerns are student privacy and increasing test anxiety via a sense of being surveilled. Pedagogically, some experts also argue that the whole premise of asking students to recall information under pressure without access to their course materials is flawed. This, they say, may only motivate students to game the system, when cheating is what online proctoring services seek to prevent. Of course, concerns about academic dishonesty are what gave rise to online exam proctoring in the first place. And the switch to rapid remote instruction provides new opportunities and motivations to cheat: everyone is away from campus, under considerable stress.
Republican leaders make-up after week-long shootout
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: Following a week-long hormonal brawl and a legal shootout over who would control $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus funding, Mississippi's top leaders got together last Thursday saying, aw shucks, we didn't mean it, we're best buds. It started with masked legislators hijacking control of the money from Gov. Tate Reeves. Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn hastily convened the Legislature amid the coronavirus, masks and all, to block Reeves' "unconstitutional" plans to spend money. Reeves called out legislative leaders saying they were trying "to steal" his federal spending authority. Former Gov. Haley Barbour, who controlled emergency federal dollars following Hurricane Katrina sided with Reeves. "I have been surprised and disappointed to read reports that some in our legislative branch of state government are trying to disrupt and change how Mississippi has effectively responded to emergency situations for decades." Nevertheless, the masked legislators voted nearly unanimously to take control of the money from Reeves. Or, they almost did.
Analysis: Gunn, through forceful maneuvering, shows Reeves and Hosemann who's boss
Mississippi Today's Adam Ganucheau writes: On the night Tate Reeves won the 2019 governor's race, most of the state's top Republican elected officials stood to the side of the stage, close to the cameras, at the new governor's victory party in downtown Jackson. As the GOP officials listened to Reeves's speech and scoped out reporters for live interviews, Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, who was a few hours from being elected to his third straight term as speaker, stood alone and quiet in the back of the room. That night, the state's political landscape changed dramatically: Reeves, the two-term lieutenant governor who sparred often with Gunn at the Capitol, was moving into the less powerful governor's office; and Delbert Hosemann, the three-term secretary of state, was elected lieutenant governor. Gunn, standing in the back of the room that night, must have known he'd soon have a shot at becoming the most powerful politician in Mississippi. In the past week, during the historic power struggle between the executive and legislative branches of government, he did it.
More gray than red vs. blue when it comes to states' need for federal funds to fill budget shortfalls
Bobby Harrison writes for Mississippi Today: President Donald Trump tweeted on April 21 that soon discussions would begin on legislation to provide "relief to state/local governments for lost revenue from COVID-19." The relief would be to provide funds to offset what is expected to be a dramatic drop in tax collections for state and local governments because of the coronavirus-induced economic slowdown. Without federal help, state and local governments could be forced to make large budget cuts, resulting in government worker and teacher layoffs that would further the economic slowdown and result in citizens losing services at a time they are most needed. A few day later Trump seemed to be having second thoughts. ... During a recent news conferences, Gov. Tate Reeves seemed to be playing up the red state (Republican) vs. blue state (Democratic) comparisons. ... But he did concede, "We are going to see significant revenue losses" and ultimately said he supports federal help to fill budget shortfalls.

Analysis: Breaking down Mississippi State's running backs heading into the summer
With spring commencement at Mississippi State now officially passed, summer has arrived in Starkville. And while the MSU football team has yet to endure its usual regimen of spring practices due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there remains a growing optimism a 2020 football season will be played -- though when that would happen and the logistics behind such an occurrence remain unknown. Over the next week-plus, we're going to dive into the Bulldogs' depth chart heading into the summer and what it might look like once competition is allowed to begin. Following last week's three-part look at the defense, let's flip sides of the ball, starting with the running backs.
Analysis: Breaking down the Mississippi State receiving corps heading into the summer
With spring commencement at Mississippi State now officially passed, summer has arrived in Starkville. And while the MSU football team has yet to endure its usual regimen of spring practices due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there remains a growing optimism a 2020 football season will be played -- though an exact start date and the logistics behind such an occurrence remain unknown. Over the next week-plus, we're going to dive into the Bulldogs' depth chart heading into the summer and what it might look like once competition is allowed to begin. Following last week's three-part look at the defense and Sunday's foray into the running back room, let's stick with offense and the MSU wide receiving corps.
Four Mississippi State softball seniors ready for 'one last ride' in 2021
Fa Leilua called first. After Mississippi State softball coach Samantha Ricketts announced in her team's GroupMe that the Bulldogs would each be able to apply for an extra year of collegiate eligibility due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, excitement, happiness and celebratory GIFs ensued. Then Ricketts received a call. Leilua was in. She'd already resolved to take the extra year -- her sixth year of college and her fifth season playing softball -- and she already had questions for Ricketts about the options she had for her master's program in coaching. "It was just such a cool conversation because Fa said, 'This was something I never thought was possible,'" Ricketts recalled. "'I never in a million years thought that I would have an opportunity to get a master's degree.' She was genuinely excited about school and about the possibilities in front of her." Leilua -- a first-generation college graduate as of May 1 -- said she had no doubt about coming back for 2021. By a month later, when Ricketts reconvened her five seniors to garner a final decision on whether they'd be back, three more Bulldogs had joined Leilua to take an extra season.
What Mother's Day means to Mississippi State coach Nikki McCray-Penson
She can still smell the sweet scent of fried corn cooking in the skillet. Every Sunday, like clockwork, Nikki McCray-Penson's childhood home was full of friends, family and an aroma that could only be concocted by Sally Coleman. Coleman, McCray-Penson's mother, whipped up some of the best home-cooked meals Collierville, Tennessee, had to offer. Chicken and dressing. Potato salad and cornbread. Spaghetti and meatballs. You name it, Coleman could cook it. "She was even the best pound-cake maker in the business," McCray-Penson told the Clarion Ledger. "There wasn't anything she couldn't make taste great." This weekend would have been another opportunity for McCray-Penson, her two sisters, her brother and all of their own children to be treated to another classic Coleman meal. Coleman, though, died of breast cancer two summers ago. This is the second Mother's Day McCray-Penson and her siblings have been without their mom and her flavorsome food. "My mom was really the backbone of our family," McCray-Penson said.
Mississippi Braves' officials uncertain when baseball will start
Officials with the Mississippi Braves were unsure when players would again take to the field and were taking cues from Major League Baseball on when the season would begin. The Braves' 2020 home-opener was slated for April 9. However, the season was postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. General Manager Pete Laven said the start of the season would be determined largely by when MLB would begin its season. "It kind of trickles down from there. They have to set their roster before the roster of the AAA team is set, and then the roster of the AA team in Mississippi is set," he said. "It's all very much related." Laven said it was unsure what the season would look like even once play begins. The Braves play at Trustmark Park in Pearl. The stadium can hold up to 8,000 fans. Laven didn't know if certain seats would have to be left vacant, or whether portions of the stadium would have to be put off limits to the public to keep crowd sizes at a minimum.
NCAA president: Colleges starting football season at same time unlikely
NCAA president Mark Emmert says the coronavirus is making it unlikely all schools will be ready to begin competing in college sports at the same time. The goal, he said Friday night, is for every team to have an equal amount of preparation time before its season starts, and there could be some competitive inequities caused by schools having varied timelines for re-opening campuses. Emmert appeared with Brian Hainline, the NCAA's chief medical officer, in an interview shown on the NCAA's official Twitter account Friday night. Major football conference commissioners have stated their goal is for all 130 teams in 10 conferences across 41 states to begin the season at the same time. As states impacted differently by the COVID-19 pandemic re-open on different schedules, the possibility rises that the season will lack a uniform start date and number of games. "I think we should assume that's going to be the case," Emmert said.
Colleges suffering losses during sports budget crunch
With the end of this virus-disrupted school year drawing nearer, a predictably bleak financial outlook for major college sports has emerged from the budgeting process. The West Virginia athletic department announced Friday a projected $5 million shortfall with pay cuts for coaches and staffers queued up in response. There's a $4 million deficit in the Minnesota athletic department's forecast for the fiscal year ending June 30, and athletic director Mark Coyle said Friday "no doubt, everything is on the table" for cost-savings consideration. High earners there have already agreed to pay cuts and hiring and spending freezes have been enacted, but future measures like travel reduction could also lead to the elimination of sports programs. Wisconsin announced Saturday it is asking 25 of its highest-earning employees to volunteer for a 15% pay cut over the next six months. That group includes athletic director Barry Alvarez, football coach Paul Chryst and men's basketball coach Greg Gard. There won't be any reduction of work hours.
If there is a college football season, bowl industry leaders say there will be a postseason
The fate of college football's bowl industry has not exactly been a front-burner topic during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly given the myriad obstacles schools face in merely resuming college football this fall. But assuming there is a season, the bowl industry says it collectively stands ready to hold a full postseason -- whenever that might occur. "It's important that the bowl system as a whole stays in the conversation," said Nick Carparelli, a former Big East/American Athletic Conference associate commissioner and Under Armour executive who took over as executive director of the Football Bowl Association earlier this year. "We are not in position to be dictating how all this is going to unfold, but we're remaining patient and we're prepared to be flexible." Could that mean bowl games in January and February, or even as late as May if some of the more extreme models for a college football season end up coming to fruition? Conceivably, according to Carparelli and a handful of bowl executives contacted by USA TODAY Sports.
Ohio State will put $40.9 million in fund for 162 Strauss victims
Ohio State University will pay $40.9 million into a fund for 162 victims of sexual abuse by Dr. Richard Strauss, who worked for the university until the late 1990s has since died. The university and the plaintiffs in a combined 12 federal lawsuits announced a settlement two months ago, but the total damages in the agreement weren't revealed until Friday in a filing in U.S. District Court in Columbus. "The university of decades ago failed these individuals -- our students, alumni and members of the Buckeye community," university President Michael Drake said in a news release. "Nothing can undo the wrongs of the past, but we must do what we can today toward restorative justice." How much money each individual will receive is to be determined. Columbus lawyer Scott Smith, who represents 85 plaintiffs in one of the unresolved lawsuits, called the settlement amount "woefully inadequate."

The Office of Public Affairs provides the Daily News Digest as a general information resource for Mississippi State University stakeholders.
Web links are subject to change. Submit news, questions or comments to Jim Laird.
Mississippi State University  •  Mississippi State, MS 39762  •  Main Telephone: (662) 325-2323  •   Contact: The Editor  |  The Webmaster  •   Updated: May 11, 2020Facebook Twitter